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Yugoslavia: NATO Halts Russia's Airlift Of Troops To Kosovo

Pristina/Moscow, 5 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - A NATO delegation has arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian officials on a dispute over the deployment of more Russian troops in Kosovo. Russia yesterday was forced to postpone airlifting hundreds more troops to Kosovo after Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria -- at the request of NATO -- refused Russia permission to use their airspace. U.S. officials say NATO does not want Russia to bring more troops into Kosovo until problems are resolved over how closely Russian forces will cooperate with NATO in the international peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Washington acknowledges that Russian peacekeeping troops will not formally report to NATO commanders. But the U.S. says Russia's forces should be prepared to follow instructions from NATO commanders in the field.

Moscow says its troops will be under a separate Russian command and it has never been clear how closely the Russian military is prepared to cooperate with NATO.

Meanwhile in Belgrade, a top Serb opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, returned to the country yesterday to try to help force the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and to face accusations of draft dodging.

Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, said after arriving at Belgrade airport that the Serb opposition's main aim is to force the resignation of Milosevic and to see free and democratic elections held in the country.

Djindjic said once Milosevic is no longer in power, the country should establish a transitional government and then hold fair elections.

Djindic had left Belgrade in early April shortly after the start of NATO's bombing raids and spent most of the time in Montenegro.

He has been charged with refusing mobilization and could face up to 20 years in jail on conviction. It is unclear when he will testify in the draft-dodging investigation. Under Serbian law, a court investigation is necessary to determine if there is enough evidence to indict.